On How We Treat All Refugees

An image of a Ukraine flag

One of the heartwarming things in what has been a destructive and heartbreaking war between Russia and Ukraine is the treatment of refugees from Ukraine, at least from what I’ve seen on news television. It has been wonderful to see the kind treatment of Ukrainian refugees entering into Poland, for example.

But at the same time, upon seeing the footage of how Ukrainian refugees have been treated, my mind couldn’t help but turn towards how so many parts of the world have struggled with how we’ve treated refugees from other places. And that’s not to say that Ukrainian refugees shouldn’t be treated with the utmost care and respect, but that instead we should treat all refugees from war-torn areas, politically unstable areas, and places ravaged by the impacts of climate change (to name a few) with the same sort of basic human decency that has been given to so many refugees from Ukraine.

And yes, that includes refugees from war-torn Syria. That also includes refugees from Honduras, which has suffered from major weather disasters and drug violence. That includes those fleeing from the Taliban in Afghanistan, political violence in Myanmar, and many other issues in many other parts of the world.

And yet, we (we applying not just to the United States, but to many other countries as well) often don’t treat refugees with the same sort of human decency that some Ukrainian refugees are receiving. We turn them away at the borders. We tell them to go back to their home countries, in the process returning to the violence or other unrest they had hoped to escape from. We tell them that there is no room for them in “our” country. We tell them that they would damage the country’s economy. We all too often show deep selfishness.

And that’s not to say that there are challenges that come with having a massive influx of refugees in a short period of time. Such an influx means that there is a sudden need for a wide variety of services (and a wide quantity of services) in places that may not have them, or at least not have them to the extent needed in order to take care of everyone present. Everything from doctors to bathrooms are needed in great supply in places having a large influx of refugees, for example. The challenge that comes with this is great. Yet, at the same time, giving our fellow human beings some relief and refuge during a time of great chaos and upheaval and loss should by itself make those challenges worth it.

So yes, may we welcome refugees from Ukraine, and may we stand with Ukraine and refugees coming from that country. But may we also welcome refugees from Honduras, Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and many other parts of the world.

Human Rights Violations at the World Cup: An Ugly Side to the Beautiful Game

I am a big fan of soccer/football, also known by some who love the sport as “the beautiful game.” It’s to the point that my own Twitter feed notes my support of a long-suffering team in the second tier of the English footballing system.

Given my fandom of soccer/football, what I am about to say breaks my heart: the World Cup, on every occasion in recent memory, is not just a soccer/footballing spectacle, but also a spectacle in human rights violations.

For example, various forms of slavery often have a presence at the World Cup. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is already gaining notoriety for using forced labor, even though that World Cup is four years away (if it even still happens in Qatar, which is no guarantee). Sadly, the problem is not limited to Qatar—in each of the three World Cups previous to 2018, issues with sex trafficking were widespread. World Cup hosts such as Germany (2006) and South Africa (2010) had major issues with this,[1] and a World Cup child trafficking bid was foiled just yesterday.

Furthermore, labor abuses are commonplace while these nations prepare for the World Cup. Much of the attention is on Russia right now since they’re hosting, and rightfully. As of the middle of 2017, it was reported that as many as 17 people have died in preparations for the World Cup as a result of labor abuses.[2] However, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar also deserves attention for all the people who died as a result of labor abuses while preparing for their World Cup.[3] Lamentably, labor abuses are frequently an issue while nations prepare for the World Cup.

And then there’s the mass displacement of people as a result of preparing for the World Cup. Jacob Zuma, who was the President of South Africa when his country hosted the World Cup in 2010, drew criticism because of the mass evictions of people in the run-up to the tournament. Brazil’s mass displacement of people while preparing for their World Cup in 2014 gained international press attention. Sadly, the World Cup often seems to displace people.

For all that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has drawn criticism for its human rights violations (and rightfully so), human rights violations sadly seem to exist at every World Cup, no matter where it is held. Qatar is bad with its human rights violations, but this doesn’t mean that we should hold the current World Cup hosts or the previous ones as beacons for justice in the midst of their preparing for their World Cups.

All of the injustice that is tied to these World Cups begs the following question: How do we respond? Some of us have responded or will respond by not watching the World Cup at all, in protest of these human rights abuses. Others of us will turn a blind eye and watch the World Cup, for one reason or another. But then there are people like me, people who are torn between a game they love and human rights violations they hate.

I personally haven’t been able to reconcile these two tensions, the tension between the soccer/football I love and the hatred of human rights violations that play out at every World Cup. However, I think a good start is to at least inform ourselves of the various human rights violations that happen at every World Cup. That’s the least we can do.

[1] A group of nuns who were backed by Pope Francis noted that “sexual exploitation rose 30 percent in connection with the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and 40 percent at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.” Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-soccer-world-trafficking/nuns-backed-by-pope-warn-of-human-trafficking-at-world-cup-idUSBREA4J0IS20140520

[2] https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/world-cup-2018-fifa-blamed-for-deaths-and-widespread-abuse-of-stadium-workers/

[3] http://fortune.com/2016/03/31/qatar-world-cup-workers/

Soccer Ball for World Cup Post
This is an image of “Telstar 18,” the official match ball of the 2018 World Cup. Source: Wikimedia Commons Contributors, “File:Rus-Arg 2017 (11).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the Free Media Repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rus-Arg_2017_(11).jpg&oldid=272527602 (accessed June 10, 2018).